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Vauxhall Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Vauxhall Archive

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Vauxhall has been building cars for more than a century, with the first (5hp) example built in 1903 and named after the Vauxhall Iron Works in south London. The engineering business had originally been started by Scottish engineer Alexander Wilson in 1857. The firm moved to Luton in 1905, and the ‘trademark’ fluted radiator/bonnet sides (used until the 1960s) first appeared in the same year. Vauxhall Motors Ltd. was formed in 1907, to develop and build only cars. Before the Great War, the company produced well-respected sporting machines, including the ‘Prince Henry’ models (created by Laurence Pomeroy) and the wonderful 30/98 (1913 on). Vauxhalls were highly successful in motorsport during this era (the 4.5-litre Grand Prix model produced 130 bhp…).

Due to financial difficulties, Vauxhall was bought by General Motors in 1925. Important models of the next few years included the 20/60, the six cylinder Cadet (first British car with a synchromesh gearbox) and the thoroughly modern Ten of 1937. This featured integral construction bodywork, an overhead valve engine and torsion bar front suspension. During World War II Vauxhall contributed greatly to Britain’s military effort, producing 250,000 Bedford trucks and 5,640 Churchill tanks. The post-War years saw the arrival of new four- cylinder Wyvern and six-cylinder Velox models, based on the pre-War Ten. ‘Full-width’ bodywork was a feature of the all-new 1951 E types, which gave way to the legendary PA Velox and Cresta models in 1957, famous for their rather ‘Americanised’ styling.

The company’s mainstream family models of the 1950s/60s were the faithful Victors, starting with the F versions in 1957 (later evolving into the FB and FC ranges); these too featured U.S. influenced styling. Sadly Vauxhalls of this period, while mechanically strong, earned a justifiable reputation (which took years to dispel) for rapidly rusting away…

Vauxhall’s new small car, the Viva, arrived in 1964 to an enthusiastic reception. The Viva ran through HA, HB and HC versions (including still-revered sporting versions of the HA/HB - like the Brabhams), before being replaced by the Chevette (including practical hatchback variants) in 1975. The highly successful rear wheel drive Cavalier was introduced in 1975, and was replaced in 1981 by the J type front drive version (sold in hatchback, saloon and estate forms), which was also responsible for bringing many new buyers to Vauxhall’s door. The larger Carlton also proved to be a popular car. For those seeking a smaller hatchback or saloon, the front wheel drive Astra (the first front drive Vauxhall) was another success story for the company during the 1980s, and the even more compact Nova (from 1983) proved to be an effective package too. In both cases the GTE versions were fast and fun to drive as well. The futuristic looking Calibras (now regarded as modern classics) attracted buyers during the 1990s, and more recently (from the summer of 2000) the stunning VX220 has represented a new direction for Vauxhall – a future classic if ever there was – as is the massively powerful Monaro. Other models in the mainstream Vauxhall line-up have included, in recent years, the compact and sought-after Corsa, various modern interpretations of the Astra, the extremely popular Vectra, the larger Omega and the four wheel drive Monterey and Frontera models, in their many versions. These days it is ‘cool’ to be seen in a Vauxhall, and the diversity of models produced (including the most recent Vectras, innovative Zafira and Meriva MPVs, and effective small cars such as the Agilas) have considerably extended the appeal of the company’s products.

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